50 Cent Meets Mandela — And We Are There

This in from MTV News producer Joseph Patel, who’s currently on assignment in Africa with 50 Cent. That’s right: Africa. The rest of us are either at our NY desks, in LA traffic, or otherwise chained to the Tri-State area. (We hate you, Joseph.) Here’s his report on just one of the incredible moments MTV News has captured in South Africa this week:

It’s a crazy thing, my job.

Yesterday, super-production manager Phoenix Higgins, super-camera guy Nick Neofitidis, and I flew 18 hours from NYC to Johannesburg, for an assignment documenting 50 Cent and G-Unit’s tour of South Africa and Tanzania.

This isn’t JUST a tour. 50 is here to see and learn about the region and continent in a way that perhaps he didn’t appreciate the last time he was here, in 2004. This morning, for example, we rushed to Hector Pieterson Memorial museum in Soweto to meet up with 50 and Nelson Mandela’s grandson, who was giving 50 a lesson on Apartheid and its effect on South Africa. Mandela’s grandson is the spitting image of a young Nelson, and has a lot of his grandfather’s austere diplomacy — except he’s young enough to know who 50 and Jay-Z are. After the tour, guided by Mandela’s grandson, 50 gave out 20 dollar bills to the local kids before his car got mobbed and his manager made him speed away.

The picture above is a shot of the younger Mandela and 50, mobbed by some local Soweto kids outside the old Mandela family home. Everyone here knows who 50 Cent is, and is in a state of suspended disbelief that he is in their country.

We were on our way to the Apartheid Museum, at the entrance, in fact, when we were told by 50’s tour manger that we had to turn around and head straight for Madiba’s house.

(Find out who Madiba really is, after the jump…)

Madiba? We had no idea who this was, but we tore through the freeways back towards Johannesburg (amidst our police escort) to find out. We should have known what was up when, after driving through this quiet gated community and pulling up in front of a house, there was armed security outside the gates. Only six people total were allowed inside — and one of them was Nick, because he had the camera.

As Phoenix and I sat outside with the rest of 50’s entourage (about ten people), drivers and security, we finally asked, Who is “Madiba”?

Well, ask a dumb question and get dumbstruck looks right back: Madiba is Nelson Mandela himself. Lucky Nick, not so lucky me.

Madiba is the name of Mandela’s family clan, and the elder Mandela bears the name as a sign of respect. So there we were, halfway around the world, only a few yards away from one of the greatest political and social figures of mankind – yet unable to meet him. Being the good producer that I am, I’m just glad Nick got the shot of Mandela talking with 50. This is what I’m going to keep telling myself.

Nick was just as surprised as anyone. He said he walked in, also not knowing who Madiba was, only to find the nearly 90-year-old Mandela in his living room reading the paper (they requested no photos). It’s kind of a crazy thing, and while Nick shot 50 and Mandela socializing, the two shared a few moments in private that neither wanted on camera.

There’s more to this trip, and we’ll be showing it all to you in just a few weeks. The plan is for us to see 50’s show tonight in Johannesburg (which the locals call Jozi), where 80,000 people will fill up the city’s biggest indoor stadium. Tomorrow we go with 50, Lloyd Banks, and Tony Yayo to a platinum mine to see the grueling conditions that some work under for the bling that stars rock to look pretty. Again, 50 is really interested in learning about how this part of the world is connected to the everyday world in which we live in America. As one older man said to him at the Apartheid Museum earlier, “50, welcome home. This is your home!”

More later!

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